Monday, May 26, 2008

Art Break

And now a word from our breastesses.....

From a series started based on a friend of mine.

She sat for photos in my cold apartment.

She liked my dog.

She had the most beautiful body. Round and soft and full.

And she knew how to show it off.

I miss her.

I miss you.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pain is only ever an encouragment

After the day spent walking in the market my foot hurt. Granted, I had ripped off my big toe nail, pain was to be expected. Since I was trying to figure out what to do now that I had ripped off my big toenail, I considered further options. Out of respect for my physical limitations I boarded a bus that next Beijing morning, and, with the Australian, hit the Great Wall of China. I figured that I was in pain, but what was a little hike on a wall. No problem.

It was about three hours outside of Beijing to get to the wall. We had one police stop where everyone sat very quietly and without making eye contact while the red police yelled loudly at our driver and pulled him and the guide off the bus. We sat there in stunned silence and just hoped we would be moving on soon. After about five minutes of yelling, three phone calls, and tearing of signs out of the bus we were allowed to go on. Our tour mates whispered.

"I've never been so happy to know that I have my passport." Several people said.

"What just happened here?" The Australian asked me.

"We're in China."

We made the wall, a non restored section that we would hike down. The section started with a tall climb and finished with a steep decent and then a second steep two tower climb before the finish. In all we would climb about twenty tours and 10 kilometers. The climb was to take three hours.

I explained to the guide when we arrived that I had hurt me foot. He looked at me like I was out of my mind. And maybe I was.

But that never stopped me.

It was a chilly day in Beijing and in the mountains in general. I borrowed a Jacket from McGlynn to stay warm which was a mercy on the hike. The wind numbed out my feet and by the second mile I forgot I was in any kind of pain. I picked out a careful trail on crumbling rocks, watching for falling showers from above and trying to be mindful of those picking their way up behind me. Toe holds, hand holds, all of it important as the troupe climbed up and down and up and down again.

There is nothing to do when you are up there but walk. Beautiful, quiet, careful walking.

But not alone, no. At every turn there is a Mongolian sales person who has herded t-shirts, water, snacks, postcards, and other flotsam up to the peak. As you walk they trail next to you, occasionally tell you the history of the wall, then offering you some water. I admit, I did finally break down and buy a t-shirt from a set of Grandmothers selling oranges who reminded me so much of the hajumas from my own country.

In the end it was the asthma and not the toe that slowed me down, but I didn't realize I was having trouble breathing until the Australian made a joke and I tried to laugh and choked up. The guided pointed to the end of the trail, about five towers away from where we stood joking.

Pain, oxygen, and body numbness set in, but I walked. And I walked down to the bottom only ten minutes behind the rest of the group.

The wall itself is, as a friend put it "The most spectacular tactical defense error of all time." While true it does little to really define the absolute beauty and stillness of a three hour walk along the rocky slopes.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

When in China...Shop!

After the first night in China I woke up the second more had coffee kicked my sleeping companions around until we were all awake and ready to move. I kicked with the non-sore foot. It was decided after much discussion that the day would include; a trip to a nearby market to buy shoes, a trip to the Pearl Street Market for a day of haggling, a dinner, and a late show of Legend of Kung Fu at one or another of the Chinese theaters.

And so it was.

The first market was a bizarre cacophony of colors and sounds. In the background the song “We wish you a Merry Christmas” was playing loudly and obnoxiously over and over again but the lyrics had been changed to something propoganidized and reflecting the opinions of Mao. It was the kind of gaudy exuberance you sort of expect if you go to China Town during the winter New Year. Strange and oddly perfectly in place with what I expected.

Once we arrived and got over the initial color poisoning we decided to each lunch in the market cafeteria. This was a great idea until my non-meat eating ass actually got into the hall of eats. There was stall after stall of stuff being plied and most of it included something in the form of steer, deer, something queer, or eggs, all of which I’m allergic too. Well, I have to be careful as I can get pretty sick if I eat something off.

As it turned out even though I managed to find something that looked like lo-mien and walked like lo-mien within five bites I started to have trouble breathing and realized that something was not right in the state of my lunch. Must have been an egg sneak attack since that is how it usually starts. I decided to forgo lunch and have an inhaler instead and then we wandered about unsuccessfully looking for shoes.

Since the market was feeling bust-ish we piled into a cab and drove across town to arrive at the Pearl Street Market. Unlike the Silk Street Market this market maintains some of the dignity of being a street market while still being converted into a five story mall. The façade of the building makes it look foreboding with Chinese architectural detailing on the roof trying to bring the whole thing down to earth but failing. Rather than looking like an overbuilt temple it comes off looking more like barracks. However once inside that quickly passes.

The first floor held all sorts of cool things and of course some of the most expensive ones in the market. It’s pile upon pile of stuff to buy that reminded me more of Korea than the first market I passed. Haggling was still the nature of the beast but since I had gone home early the night before I spent my down time converting money equations in my head until I felt fairly confident about tackling a market. Now, knowing better the value of my money I was well prepared.

We shuffled through the first floor and tried not to part with any cash. On the second floor we started to look around in earnest. T-shirt, bags, shoes, hats, scarves, kinck-nacks, posters, pins, buttons, etc, etc. It was all there for the taking. While McGlynn and the Australian went off I found some silk by the yard for sale and started to haggle in earnest with the girl. We went around like that for three floors up, each of us looking for what we wanted and reaching a mild amount of success in between.

At the top of the market where the real high end pearls are to be found we stepped out onto the balcony that overlooks the Temple of Heaven. The sky was a mottled mix of overcast and sunny and the clouds parted to shoot a single sunbeam down on the Temple sticking up from the center of a verdant green park. It was awe inspiring and a worthy background for pictures and being the good tourists that we are we all stopped and got one.

Having spent six hours in the market, it is quite huge, he headed down and around the corner to the theater to sit down and be entertained. By this point my foot was only mildly throbbing but I was doing my best to hold on. The show, which we were not allowed to take pictures of, was amazing to behold. A perfect blend of opera and kung-fu. In deed more opera should included Kung-fu.

The day ended with the acquirement of a hotel room on Ghost Street and the collection of bags and arrangements for the next morning. I went to bed tired, sore and probably in need of more tequila but I slept clean and had no dreams.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Things to do when you rip off our toenail

Having ripped off my big toenail I considered the options for my longish holiday weekend in Korea.

I figured my options were as follows:

1) Experience pain like you have never experienced pain before

2) Drink profusely

3) Try to relax

4) Drink a little more profusely to try to numb out that pain

So, these being my options I decided to hell with it and packed up my bag and went to China.

In reality the China trip had been planned since March and I was not going to let a little thing like ripping off my toenail stop me from going. So after downing the better part of a bottle of tequila on Friday night I woke up Saturday around four a.m. strapped on my bag and headed for the bus. This required walking which was painful, but there was no way around it.

I hit Seoul, went through all the various madcap fun of airport security and caught my plane arriving in Beijing two short hours later. Upon arrival I immediately learned one thing. China is freaking HUGE! Or at least the airport is. Walking from the terminal to immigration was a painful process. Then getting out of immigration required taking a tram to the actual airport, where I then had to walk some more to find an exit gate. Since I was traveling in true backpacker fashion I had an empty backpack, a book, and a bag with gauze and tape. I should have packed more alcohol.

My friend McGlynn was waiting for me at the crowded gate. I saw him in the crowd and started walking. And then walked some more. And some more. The gate was like a winding maze and you just kept going and going and going and going and there was no end in site. I finally managed to get to the finish like about ten minutes later and we hoped into a cab and off to Bejing proper.

In the cab I changed my bandage for the first time.

Basically the experience was like this:


The air was crisp and clear on the day of my arrival and the weather cool. There is some suspicion that China is trying some kind of experiment to both clear the air and control the weather for the Olympics. Having been there this is easy enough to believe. It was early clean.

"For your first task," McGlynn says to me, "you must go into the silk street market and find this book." He holds up a little red book. Quotations of Chairman Mao. Of course.

"For the task you must find the book and pay equal or less than I and the Australian paid. Should you succeed we will buy you dinner. Should you fail you will buy us dinner and drinks for the evening."

We headed over to the Silk Street market and I admit to having lots of expectations, but was not prepared for the actuality. When we finally got out of our cab at the market I looked up at a clean and compact six story building. The market had been moved off the street and into this veritable mall. It was odd. I expected the hustle and bustle and flow of a moving street market, but instead here was the sanitized reality. From the score of tour busses parked outside I guessed that this was perhaps more tourist friendly then a sprawling teaming street market. Mores the pity.

We walked into the market and were greeted by "Hey Lady you want how much?" In a course repeated several thousand times a second. This was occasionally accompanied by touching and sometimes even grabbing. Pushy does not even begin to describe. I was hustled through and up to find the book that I was looking for.

Now, having pulled off my toenail and consuming a bottle of Jose for dinner the previous evening I had failed to actually figure out the value of my money. This was stupid. Unlike Korea where it is basically a one to one in China it's different.

"It's simple," says McGlynn, "It's base seven math. One hundred yuan is fourteen dollars. Fifty Yuan is seven dollars." Right, simple. It probably would have been simpler if I weren't hung over and getting reacquainted with the pain in my foot. The goal for getting the book was to haggle. But I had no idea how to haggle since I didn't know the value of my money. As accustomed to haggling as I am in Korea I had no idea what I was doing now. The pushiness and English competence of the hawker shoving the book in my face, the spinning loudness, the throbbing in my foot basically left me in one place.

I wanted this to be over with as fast as possible.

In the end I got the book overpaying buy only a few yuan so I did not feel a complete failure. We left the hustle and bustle of the market and headed down the ways to get some Mexican food, and after that a bar. By then I was passing out from a combination of things even though it really was quite early. Finally I gave up and begged to go to the accommodation for the evening to soak my foot in salt water and pass out. For the first night the plan was to be put up in a guest teacher's apartment. This was fine by me.

The apartment was small and surprisingly dirty by Korean standards. It had a bed and a bowl of salt water and at that minute that was all I really cared about. I soaked my foot and thought of home. I passed out thinking "I'm in China."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

She's Just In

She’s just in I'm just back from yet another trip to yet another place in yet another part of the world.

I am in immense pain. Or at least I was. I'm getting to the point where I'm so used to it I'm not sure what it is like to not be in pain. I've so many bandages on I'm not sure what to do with myself.

I'm tired but home. To walk through that door into my place. Here it is, like I left it, beautiful, clean, full of me. And now full of a bunch of crap I managed to aquire while playing backpacker abroad.

Where did I go?

Where will I go?

More on all of that soon.

In the meantime I have my bed to attend to. My sweet bed, my beautiful soft fluffy accomadating bed. My bed that has never done me wrong. My happy place. Not hard, not full of rocks, not located in some strange hotel.

My bed in my apartment.

Near my kitchen with my food.

And my room with my computer.

And my glass full of my wine.

And my stomach full of my wine to ease my body full of my pain.

Worth it, always worth it. Pain can be wonderfully cleansing sometimes. Not the best kind of pain mind you, that is resereved for special occasions that only come once every few years or so and really only with the write people. This is just that happy day to day pain that lets me reveal in healing. Pain and healing.

Being remade.

Being home.

It's good to be home.

Friday, May 09, 2008

I'm bringing sexy pain back

Dedicated to the memory of M~

My foot hurts.

My foot still hurts.

Jose is the best medicine.......

My foot still hurts.

and then...

Jose takes over.

Fuck it, I feel sexy.

There is a Pain I'm not Likely to Forget Soon

Looked at the clock and realized that I needed to head down the stairs to grab some lunch as I had failed to bring any with me in the morning. Walked down the stairs, got a cup ramen at the hajuma stand and went to go walk up the stairs. I was all happy, have a nice long weekend coming up, things to do, people to see. Just up to the office to eat my lunch, finish my last class, and viva Los Vegas.

The stairs at the university are old and worn they slant down a bit but it doesn’t really bother me that much. Until my sandle caught and I knew I was going down. I went with it, better to fall into it that to fight it and on the stairs there were a lot of bad things that could happen. Just let it be minimal at best, I thought as I crunched down.




Then I turned over and realized my toe hurt. FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK.

I knew before any other thought went through my head. I had ripped off the toenail on my big toe. I could feel it throbbing already. I did the only thing I could do. I pushed the nail down as quickly as I possibly could without looking at it. I always wear socks and a good thing I do. The socks kept the nail down and the blood around my foot. I walked down the few stairs I’d managed to get up.

Lunch time, everyone is gone. My phone is upstairs in my office. Teachers lounge.

I walked into the teachers lounge and set down my lunch.

“I’m sorry. I need to go to the hospital and have my big toe cut off. Can you help me?”

The foreign teachers that were gathered around were just kind of stopped for a moment and then everyone started to move. What happened, what do you need, are you okay. I repeat. They tell me to sit down but I’ve got a powerful adrenaline rush going on and I don’t want to sit just yet. I hobble back into the entryway while everyone gathers around.

“Do you want an ambulance?”

My teeth have started clenching. It hurts, ye gods it hurts, but I breathe deep and try to relax into it. This is not that bad. I can do this. I’ve done this. This is not that bad.

“No, just need a ride. Student, someone, to the hospital. They just need to cut it off and I’ll be groovy.”

“Are you sure your okay?”

“Nothing a bottle of alcohol won’t fix. I need them to cut of the toenail.”

“Do you have classes later today?”

“Just the one. I can teach it no problem, I just need to get this nail cut off.”

“We can cancel your class.”

“No need to. I really just need to go to the hospital and get this nail cut off. They take of the nail it stops hurting pretty quick.”

People are on the phone several people trying to find someone to give me a ride. It takes a few minutes.

“L can be here in ten, can you wait that long?”

“Yep.” I’m breathing and rocking, just working to keep the pain under as much control as I can muster.

They keep talking and calling. Finally a teacher comes down the hall who has a car. He has a 1:00 class and it’s 12:30. He agrees that he can take me if L can pick me up and bring me back. At that point someone had called L and told her not to bother, so I just keep sitting and squeezing and breathing until finally Lone Car decides to take me while the teachers figure out his class.

We walk to his car.

“Are you sure you can walk?”

“Need something to do.”

I jump in and we ride down to where the hospital theoretically is. Another fifteen minutes go back as we figure out what we are doing. We pass it the first time and have to swing back around to get to it again.

We talk. You have the weirdest conversations when you are in acute physical pain being chaperoned by someone who isn’t. We talk about the screwed up times we have hurt ourselves. We talk about where we are from. We talk about the weather. I keep thinking my foot hurts. We keep talking until I get out of the car to walk into the hospital.

At the front door there are about four Korean men, two in casts, the rest in hospital gowns smoking cigarettes. They see me in my grimace of pain and start laughing at me. This is the best entertainment ever, a waygook in pain at their Podunk country hospital. I want to kick their faces in with my bloody foot. I walk by them and up to the counter.

At the counter the lone receptionist sits behind a desk bored, on the phone, eating lunch. Several hajumas are lined up waiting for him. I stand there teeth gritted tapping lightly on the counter. He looks at me and turns away.

Tap, tap, tap.

He keeps talking on the phone.

Tap, tap, tap.

Finally he hangs up and asks me in Korean what I want. I don’t bother trying to explain in big word.

“Appyo, bal toe” I hold up my thumb and demonstrate ripping off the nail. He just looks at me and points down the hall.


He stands up and shows me and so I walk down the hall to what is apparently the emergency enterance. Two nurses come up to me.

“Appyo odi-is-i-yo?”

“Appyo, andi, bal” I raise my thumb again and demonstrate. They have me sit down.

The doctors come in and by now the nurses have put together what has happened. The Korean men who were laughing outside come down the hall and stand outside the door with big smiles to watch.

“Mo-boya! Uh, shi!” What are you staring at fuck-stick, I say to them in Korean. They grimace and turn away embarresed and ashamed of themselves and walk back down the hall, no longer interested in the entertainment of the waygook in pain. The nurses come back over and go to take of the sock.

“Andiyo, Andiyo. Gow-wi, gow-wi juseyo!” Their hands on my foot have me clenched in a not of adrenaline. I know they have to do this, but I so don’t want them to do this. No, no, don’t take of the sock, scissors please! They grab the scissors and cut the sock bit in the back.

“Andiyo, ta! Gow-wi, ta!” No, cut the hole sock off, the sock is a dollar, I’ll be more. Sliding the sock of is going to hurt more, just cut it off. They do, the bottom peels away from my big toe slick and sticky with dried blood.

“Mo-ya?” They ask my politely. What do you want us to do, basically.

“Cut. Cut. Tetanus, juseyo.” Cut me. Give me a tetanus shot, and some pain killers. “Appyo, shot!” The doctors come in and see it and suck in their breath. The other patients in the room do to. I don’t look at it. I’m going to get to see it more than enough in the next four months while it heals. I don’t want to remember it right now.

I lie back on the stretcher. I want something to bite but I don’t know how to ask for it so I take the pillow and stuff it between my lips as they grab my foot.

It hurts, sweet merciful goddess but does it hurt. I will my foot to stillness. The rest of my body is alive with sweltering pain but I don’t move my legs. I bit down and they hold my foot. I hear the clipping, movement, pulling, I choke, gasp as they do it. In a few minutes I feel my foot throbbing like a giant leech is sucking on it for dear life.

“Cut?” I ask.

“Nail reduction.” They tell me. They cut most of it off and saved what they could. Fine by me. “Shot?” I ask hopeful.

“X-ray juseyo?” I think about it. My toe is throbbing like my beating heart and I decide it’s not a bad idea.

“Nay, nay, shot? Appyo, shot?”

First they say after the x-ray, then they decided to go for it and give me the shot. Two shots of blissful numbness. I feel calm return to my body. The throbbing becomes a dull ache. I put my sandle back on and walk to the X-ray machine and they scan my foot. I walk back to the emergency room for the results. No breaks. Could have been much worse.

I thank them and head out to pay for my emergency room bill. All in all it was a twenty five dollar day, not too terribly bad. My ride tells me he will bring the car around, but I disagree. Better to keep walking, besides I need to stop by the pharmacy and get the prescription they wrote out.

We walk down the stairs and down the small street to the pharmacy where I get my meds for a dollar and then walk over to the car and back to school.

“Well, that was exciting.”

“Yeah, I’m fun at a party,” I respond as we drive down the road and back to school.

The teachers are gathered at the door, nothing like some Friday afternoon excitement.

“Are you okay?”

“Aside from the toe, I’m groovy. They pumped me full of something alright.”

“You should have gotten more.”

“Yeah, I thought about asking for thirty of those needles to go, but I don’t think they would have understood.” We laugh and I head up to my office to make some phone calls, neglecting my lunch. I don’t have the stomach for it anyway.

At two I taught my class.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

I had no idea it bothered him so much.


I've been going through this uncomfortable dance for a while. While I appreciate what the guy is doing for me, I still don't want to have to talk to him every time I walk in the door.

This is my time.

This is quiet time.

This is music time.

This is thinking time.

It's time for me to be alone with everything that I have in my head, my hearts desire, my dreams, my wishes. I free myself through violent moving and cursing and swearing. Through the heat of my body, the strain on all of my muscles. The movement, the sweet unending pounding rhythmic movement of it for hours on end.

I'd had to change my gym schedule recently because I realized with my work schedule it was better to go two mornings a week instead of three nights. Instead on the three nights I work out at home and the two mornings I spend a good two hours doing nothing but grinding my ass into every machine that presents itself. It's a blissful body numbing relief and I relish it as my personal time. At home it's just as good but often more distracting somehow. Here on my little machines while I work the way I want to it is nothing but an extreme focus on ever pore of my being.

I hate being talked to while I'm doing it, too.

The gym that I adore I've been going to for about two years now. I know all the night staff people as I'm there constantly. I sat down with one of the personal trainers there a few weeks ago and worked out a new routine for the next few months. The routine is painful and grueling and I relish it. He was impressed with how much I could lift. I was impressed with how much attention he had been paying to my old routine. Between us we figured out something workable in my bad Korean and his bad English and it's been swell.

Then I moved to the morning.

The first thing I discovered when I moved to the morning was a different gym guy. None of the guys I knew was manning the desk. This guy looked like his head was about to explode when I walked in. I get that a lot in Korea. It's the look of "Oh MY GOD IT'S A REAL LIVE FORIENGER!"

Lest you doubt how enticing that is I went out the other night with my friend the Rastafarian. We stopped by yea old Crew first for a few games of pool. When we walked in the place was dead so we put on some music and went to shoot a few rounds About ten minutes later a group of Korean business men came in and looked around. The bartender dutifully brought them menus as I continued to shoot my pool while the Rastafarian watched on.

I overheard the conversation the businessman had with the bartender in Korean. It went roughly like this:

"Where are all the foreigners?"

"They are not here tonight, I guess. What would you like to eat?"

"We thought this was a foreigner bar."

"Sometimes they come in later. Can I get you something to drink?"

"We came here for the foreigners. If you don't have any foreigners I don't know. Let's us talk about it."

They spoke for a few more minutes and finally the party got up and left. Before leaving one of the businessman walked over to the bartender and asked him to have more foreigners next time. I shook my head as they left thinking that if they wanted more foreigners they could offer to buy us some drinks and maybe we'd be happy to entertain them. I called the Rastafarian over and explained to her what had just happened. She shook her head and smiled.

The new gym guy reacted about the same way upon seeing me the first time. I was trying to get into my routine and he kept coming over and trying to talk to me. I tried to be as polite as one can be when running full out. Finally I just stopped listening and ran on my merry way. The next time I came in I was asked about my personal life, my musical interests, and when I was free for dinner. All of which I politely declined.

Since then I've walked in business like. I politely nod to him before changing into my admittedly ripped up t-shirt and hitting the floor hard for my body bending stunt-acular routine. I realized a few minutes into it that he was glancing at me and looking at the computer. This can mean only one thing. He's looking up more conversation to have with me. Yay!

By this point I had moved from my twenty minutes of running through a hundred stomach crunches (seriously), 20 reps of weight on my arms from 40 to a 100 pounds on two different machines and had moved to do my legs. I was sitting down and pumping hard, as one is wont to do while working out. I'd been going now for a little over an hour. It's early summer in Korea and hot and humid. I workout hard and I'm Hispanic.


I smile and move up to seventy pounds and start to move again.


"Yes" I groan as I work.

"You smell."

? I just kind of look at him. I've got seventy pounds in the air balanced on the front of my legs and the last thing I want right now is to be distracted.


"You….smell…sweat…You many sweat. Very many."

I think of lots of fancy comebacks to this. Believe it or not an hour of working out hard will cause you to sweat. Foreigners sweat. It's okay to sweat. But mostly I just kind of stare at him while I try not to lose my count.


"You should…uh…take her easy. Not so bad. Do your best, okay?"

"Okay." I have no idea what I'm to take away from this. I kick the weights up to eight and go back to it, and start to work again and he finally gets the hint and walks away. I feel bad, and I keep sweating. Self conscious about it now. I hate that. I want my time, my happy non-caring, non-self loathing me time.

I haven't figured out what to do about this guy yet. I know he means well, but if he can't deal with the sweaty fat chick who likes to work out hard, I have no idea what I can possibly do to help. And the truth is, I don't want to care about anyone else's feelings during my body hurting good time.

Maybe I should wear bigger earphones on my MP3 player.